In a tweet Labor Day afternoon, R&B artist Ja Rule announced he’s the owner of one of the first ever professional women’s football teams to pay its athletes. By doing so, he joins a long list of musicians who own sports teams, including Justin Timberlake, Usher, and Jay-Z. But the significance of Ja Rule’s involvement in a women’s sports team goes way beyond celebrity endorsement. He’s helping shine a light on a much deeper issue in sports.
Women’s Football League Association
Ja Rule’s public image has suffered many drawbacks in recent years. After announcing ownership of the New York Stars, people on Twitter were quick to get shots in about the infamous Fyre Festival fiasco. Although there were some congratulations, most said they hope it goes better than his last investment.
For those unaware, in 2016 Ja Rule partnered with Billy McFarland, CEO of Fyre Media, to launch a music festival in the Bahamas. The event was a disaster and left hundreds of attendees stranded on an island. This bizarre outcome was well documented in Netflix’s Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened.
While people have a right to be skeptical about Ja Rule, the WFLA is a huge step for women empowerment. According to their website, the league boasts to be a full-contact sport. This means tackling will be allowed. The first full-tackle women’s football league originally launched in 1999 by businessmen Carter Turner and Terry Sullivan. However, the league crumbled under many issues, including failure to pay its players. The new WFLA is owned by CEO Lupe Rose and is expected to launch in August 2020.
Sports Gender Wage Gap
The key thing to note about Ja Rule’s tweet is the hashtag: #WomenEmpowerment. When it comes to female recognition in sports, there have been many leaps in recent years. Megan Rapinoe, for example, has quickly become an icon as co-captain of the U.S. National Women’s Soccer Team. Not only did she lead her team to victory in the 2019 Fifa Women’s World Cup, she is also a public activist.
Gender wage inequality in sports has been an issue since the beginning. Rapinoe herself helped file a complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission with her teammates back in 2016. Her net worth is estimated to be $3M, while world-renowned Lionel Messi is at $400M. However, pay discrepancies are not only limited to soccer. Per Investopedia, the highest paid player in the WNBA is DeWanna Bonner at $127,500. Compare that to Stephen Curry’s $37.46M salary.
One may believe the reason the pay gap is so huge is because men’s sports generate more revenue. But in reality, women’s soccer games have outearned men’s soccer games in the U.S. for the past three years. Plus a report from Nielsen last year suggests that 51% of people who watch women’s sports are men. This proves there is a demand for all sports, regardless of gender.
The Future of Women in Sports
Despite the pay discrepancies, the future of women’s sports is looking up. Only yesterday, Twitch signed a three-year exclusive deal with the NWHL to live stream their games. And athletes like Serena Williams are still dominating in tennis. Women are gaining more recognition in sports, leading to a hopefully brighter future. But visibility in sports is not the same as equality. Perhaps the rise of of the Women’s Football League Association will help change that.
According to the WFLA website, teams are now available for purchase. Regardless of his investment history, Ja Rule should be acknowledged for recognizing the importance of gender equality in sports and helping bring it forth. As for female musicians who are involved in sports teams, Jennifer Lopez, Gloria Estefan, and Fergie all own stakes in the Miami Dolphins. Hopefully more celebrities will turn their attention to women’s sports in the years to come. If we really want to make a change, now is the time to act.
What do you think about the future of women’s sports? Let us know down in the comments.
This article originally published on GREY Journal.